Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina

Layers of Ice: Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier

Perhaps one of the most spectacular marvels of Mother Nature I’ve ever witnessed is the majestic Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina. Spanning an area of 250 square kilometers/97 square miles and 30 km/19 miles in length, the sheer magnitude of this massive piece of layered ice is incomprehensible.

Ice trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier was one of my highlights to a trip to Southern Patagonia in 2009. Take a peak for yourself and see the immense beauty and power of Argentina’s premier glacier.

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see”. – Henry David Thoreau

Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier in ArgentinaPerito Moreno Glacier in Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier in ArgentinaThis post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers. To view more entries click here.

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Scotch on the 400-year-old Rocks

After leaving El Chalten, we boarded the sole bus headed back down Ruta 40 to El Calafate.  This time, I wasn’t shocked by the barrenness of the land, the no man’s land of guachos, guancos, condors and pumas.  I was just plain old tired.  Tired from all the hiking, and tired of all the travel.  It is amazing how truly long it takes to reach this part of the world.  Four flights, long, bumpy bus rides and then there you are in the middle of nowhere.

We arrived at the bus depot in El Calafate late at night, met our driver who swiftly escorted us to our hotel and were just in time for the ten o’clock dinner seating.  Eating so late is not my favorite.  First of all, I’m always starving by 5 or 6 pm, which is my usual dinner time (blame it on the kids!), and second of all, I find it hard to sleep on a full belly.   Yet sometimes you have no choice in the matter, especially when you are traveling in countries where eating late is the norm (such as Spain where I could hardly stay awake for the eleven o’clock dining).  Regardless, we were famished and all that remained open was our lovely hotel bar where we wondrously gobbled up an entire meal (appetizer, salad, entrée, dessert, and of course a bottle of vino tiento).

We were up at the crack of dawn again but this time it wasn’t an anticipated hike that woke us up but the crazy, noisy strange birds that screeched outside our hotel window.  Extremely curious what on earth could make such a horrendous sound, I pulled back the curtain to find these large, annoying, unusual looking birds who sounded somewhat like Canadian geese, having some kind of party outside my hotel window.  Oh well, at least it was a built in alarm clock.

Today was yet another big day.  We were off on a grand, full day excursion to see the world famous Perito Moreno Glacier, and I could hardly wait!

A visit to the Perito Moreno Glacier, located about 78 km/48 miles from El Calafate in the Los Glaciares National Park (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981) is one of the most spectacular and unforgettable experiences in all of Patagonia.  Known as one of the few still advancing glaciers on Earth, Perito Moreno is also one of the most unique tourist destinations in all of Argentina.  The magnificent, massive glacier measuring approximately 250 km2/97 square miles and 30 km/19 miles in length is one of 48 glaciers fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field  (the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water).   It’s massive size (a true beast of a glacier) is so incredibly amazing that many people are completely awe-struck and taken aback by its magnificence.    It is truly a wonder of this magnificent, unbelievable Earth.

The Perito Moreno glacier was named after the renowned Argentine explorer Francisco Moreno, a trailblazing pioneer who studied the region in the 19th century and played a major role in defending the territory of Argentina in the conflict surrounding the international border dispute with Chile. Ironically, Moreno, never even saw the incredible ice-formation that bears his name today.  What a pity!

Here are some photos of the trip to this unforgettable place (Please note:  unfortunately the photo quality is not the best and the pictures are a little grainy.  My computer was attacked by a mean virus so I had to download my pictures off my saved Shutterfly making them not as clear.  Oh well….at least this will give you an idea of its beauty.  Enjoy!)

Driving to the glacier, a two hour bus ride through nowhere land:

Approaching the Perito Moreno Glacier…world famous and one of only glaciers in world that is not receding:

First sight:

The only way to reach the glacier is via boat.  After disembarqueing the boat, the tourists walk over to a small pier where they await the arrival of the boat that will ferry them across Lago Argentino to the banks of the glacier.  Here is a picture of the pier:

Here we come…look out WIND!

First sight….wow!  Hard to capture on film how massive it is:

Perito Moreno Glacier advances into Lago Argentino separating it into two halves.  As you take the boat ride out to the terminus of the glacier, you can see this bizarre division and it appears as if there are two separate lakes, one on each side of the gigantic face of the glacier.  The pressure and movement of the glacier creates an incredible show for the spectators.  As the glacier is pushed forward into the lake by the massive Southern Patagonian Ice Field, every few minutes one can hear the thunderous roar and crash of enormous pieces of heavy ice breaking off of the glacier and smashing into the lake (this phenomenon is called “calving”) then floating away as majestic, glistening icebergs.  It is an amazing site to see, that is for sure.  The sheer mass and power of the ever-changing glacier, breaking apart into “baby” icebergs makes is somehow seem like its alive.

As you approach the glacier, you are startled at the sheer size and mass of this enormous piece of ice.  It is truly from out of this world.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of only three Patagonian glaciers that is growing. The reason remains debated by glaciologists.  The terminus of the Perito Moreno Glacier is 5 km/3 miles wide, with an average height of 74 m/240 ft high (above the lake) and an ice depth 170 m/558 ft.

Picture of boat docking shows magnitude of this giant mass of ice:

We were dropped off boat at the foot of the glacier for our next adventure, an ice trek:

Our guide giving us some history of glacier:

Another beautiful picture:

Glacier trekking is the most first-hand way to experience the Perito Moreno Glacier.  By trekking across the icy surface, you’ll feel the wind and cold of the grand Southern Patagonian Ice Field, hear the roar of falling ice blocks, and see beautiful vistas of Lake Argentina.  It was something I was really looking forward to doing as I’d never hiked on ice before (except on the sidewalks outside my door in Minnesota—-but that doesn’t hold a candle to this!)

Off we go headed to our hike (note the contrast in size between the people and the glacier towering above our heads):

More shots of the glacier…sorry I couldn’t stop taking photos!

Its freezing out here!  I have two jackets and two pairs of pants on and the wind off the glacier is still cutting through to my bones! (here is a photo of me and my father):

The amazing 400 year old (front part of the glacier is this age, back is much older) up close.  Note the brilliant deep blue colors in the ice.:

Going overboard on photos but I couldn’t stop taking them because it was so amazing.

Entering the glacier.  Not sure if you can see the tiny dotes of people on the left side.  That is where we start our climb after we get fitted with our crampons.

Grabbing our crampons:

Getting them on.  Burr…it is blowing like mad but better in here. Good thing the hut to put on the cramptons had some shelter from the wind:

Our ice guides, showing off:

The gorgeous ice:

View of the green forest to the left of the massive glacier.  Strange juxtaposition:

Not so close…a 100 foot deep ice crevasse.  There is actually a strange type of insect that lives in the ice and eats microscopic organisms inside the glacier!  Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!

Scotch on the rocks await with a piece of 400 year old ice inside:

Two of my favorite pictures. View of the glacier through the forest:

My father and I, traveling sidekicks:

An attempt to show how massive this glacier is.  It comes off the enormous Patagonian Ice Field which runs down Patagonia through Argentina and Chile.

Patagonian Condor….they are enormous and have a 10 foot wingspan:

View from above on the observation platform:

Glacial calving…the glacier booms, bangs like an explosion as a new calf is born into the water.  The glacier is truly alive:

Thirdeyemom in her element.  True Bliss indeed!

One last shoot before I leave….Goodbye Argentina…until we meet again!

We left Argentina the next day for our long journey back.  It was an amazing trip, one that fulfills the imagination and keeps me dreaming for the day I can come back!